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Thursday, December 1, 2022
HomeHealthcareHelping partners with depression involves self-care and open listening

Helping partners with depression involves self-care and open listening

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Jeff Zuckerman and his wife had been married for 30 years when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. She had her first crisis, which lasted months, in the spring of 2015. Immediately afterwards, she fell into severe depression. The episodes shook the couple’s health.

“You have to understand that for her, depression is not just sadness, it’s emptiness,” said Zuckerman, 68, who is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis. When his wife’s depression was at its height, she stayed in bed with the curtains drawn for months, stopped showering and barely spoke.

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“This woman was so active, she ran our family. She was a mother, she worked, all that stuff, and then she fell into such a deep depression,” said Zuckerman, who wrote a book – “Unglued: A Bipolar Love Story.” bipolar love story) – about loving a spouse under the grip of mental illness.

Millions of Americans are in depression-prone relationships with partners. An estimated 21 million adults in the United States have experienced at least one major depressive episode, while in parts of the country up to 10% of people have seasonal affective disorder, a syndrome that tends to appear during the fall and winter, when days are get shorter.

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When helping your partner cope with depression treatment, experts say there are ways to support and take care of yourself.

Learn more about the disease

Familiarizing yourself with some of the physical and emotional markers of depression can help you identify whether your partner is simply in a bad mood, physically drained, or living with depression.

Common signs include loss of interest in regular activities, changes in appetite or sleep, or unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches or backaches that tend to last at least two weeks, according to the US National Institute of Mental Health.

Learning more about what depression is and how it affects people can also help you protect yourself emotionally, respond with more empathy, and not take your partner’s behavior personally.

“If one partner doesn’t understand that the other is suffering from depression, it can confuse things like a loss of interest in romance or sex for a personal rejection,” explained Xavier Amador, a clinical psychologist and co-author of “When Someone You Love Is Depressed.” your love is depressed, in Portuguese).

Be curious about your partner’s experience

When your partner is in pain, you may feel like diving right in and telling him or her what you think is going on. But try to start by asking questions, Amador said. Ask your partner how he is feeling. Tell him that you would like to understand more about what he is going through.

If your partner is defensive, Amador recommends a strategy known as “reflective listening.” For example, if you ask your loved one how they’re feeling and they tell you they’re fine and there’s nothing wrong, you’ll respond with something like, “You’re telling me there’s nothing wrong, that’s all. “Correct? Can I tell you what I noticed?”, Amador pointed out.

If you make an effort to start the conversation with questions, rather than rushing to give your opinion, your partner is more likely to feel heard and valued, not judged, he said.

Recognize your own limitations

To help a loved one get a diagnosis and treatment, you can call potential providers and make appointments, or compile a list of doctors for him or her to contact. But experts say it’s also important to remember that you can’t force anyone to get help, and that pushing too hard can have an unwanted result.

“It’s a balancing act,” said Lily Brown, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

“Of course, you want to be available to talk and suggest how he can get help, but if you’re steering the boat too much, the person struggling with depression might start to feel a little more helpless and a little more hopeless. “

She added that partners who take on too much responsibility for caring for each other are also often gripped by feelings of guilt and shame when they fail to resolve the issue.

You shouldn’t be your partner’s only support, especially in situations where he might be in danger. Keep in mind that depression can increase your risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts [e o Centro de Valorização da Vida no Brasil (basta ligar 188 de qualquer telefone ou celular em território nacional) oferece oferece apoio emocional e prevenção ao suicídio].

Prioritize your mental health

Romantic partners can affect each other’s health and health-related behaviors in good and bad ways, and Amador noted that some research suggests that depressive symptoms can be, in some ways, contagious.

“If you live with someone who is depressed and feeling helpless — and often doesn’t want to get help — you can start feeling depressed and helpless,” he said.

It is imperative that you support your own mental health, both Amador and Brown emphasized. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, see a healthcare professional for evaluation. But even if it isn’t, it can be helpful to see a therapist or join a peer-led support group.

Zuckerman is a volunteer facilitator for the National Alliance for Mental Health, or NAMI, a support group for families and partners of people with mental health issues. It has helped him connect with a community of people who understand what he is going through. Every two weeks, Zuckerman and about 10 to 15 other partners discuss coping techniques, help each other process feelings of grief or guilt, and provide a safe space to share their challenges and successes.

Find time for what you like

In addition to connecting with a therapist or support group if needed, it’s also important to find other ways to prioritize self-care. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complicated, Brown said. Simply getting out of the house for a while and making time for activities you enjoy can help protect your own emotional well-being when your partner is struggling.

Spend time outdoors in nature, engage in some form of activism or get your body moving. Research has shown, for example, that running for 15 minutes a day or doing less strenuous exercise such as walking or gardening for an hour can have a protective effect against depression.

And “socialize, socialize, socialize – whatever that is for you,” Amador recommended. “It’s really important to get that social support and release.” You can encourage your partner to join you in your efforts to get out and exercise or connect with others, but remember that a loss of interest in normal activities or hobbies is a symptom of depression.

Zuckerman’s wife – who gave her husband permission to share his story but did not reveal his name – has been stable for three years and said things between the couple are “great”. They go to movies, concerts and dance performances together. They cook, spend time with their grandchildren and attend synagogue.

But Zuckerman also continues to remind himself that it’s not selfish to prioritize self-care.

“We fundamentally love our partners and our spouses, and deep down we know it’s a disease. We know you can’t blame someone for being sick,” he said. “However, what we go through as a result of that can be devastating.”

Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves

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Joel
Joel
I have over 10 years of experience working in the news industry. I have worked for various news websites and have been an author at News Bulletin 247 for the past 2 years. I mostly cover technology news and have a keen interest in keeping up with the latest trends in the industry. I am a highly motivated individual who is always looking to improve my skills and knowledge. I am a team player who is always willing to help out others, but also able to work independently when required. I am proactive and always take initiative to come up with new ideas and solutions.

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